What FCT NBA Chairman told DG, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria
THE SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE CHAIRMAN NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, BWARI BRANCH ON THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE’S COURTESY VISIT TO THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL, LEGAL AIDS COUNCIL OF NIGERIA (LACoN) ON THE 29TH OF NOVEMBER 2019 AT LACON HEADQUARTERS ABUJA
Nigerian Bar Association Bwari Branch congratulates the Director-General for his appointment to pilot the ship of the Legal Aids Council of Nigeria for the current dispensation, and I pray that your tenure, Sir, witnesses, unprecedented growth and development in the office and will be of immense success to the legal community and Nigeria in general. Your doggedness and commitment to duty on the assumption of your office is noteworthy and commendable, Sir.
Today, our visitation is not only to demonstrate our love for the ideal which LACoN stands for but also to identify with remarkable achievements your organisation has made in the area of criminal justice administration, access to justice and particularly in providing quality legal services to the indigents.
Strengthening these further, Sir, for the efforts toward the shared vision and the building a formidable front for free legal and community services in the FCT, on this basis, NBA BWARI Branch is willing to rub minds with your leadership to see the best way these can be achieved. I am here with my dependable team and the responsible officers of the branch to give honour to which honour is deserved and appreciate LACoN for its good gesture to the bar, the branch and the legal profession.
It is of relevance to intimate your office certain developments in the branch relating to our efforts and interventions in promoting the Rule of Law and Access to Justice within Bwari Judicial Division. Our sphere of influence extends to the entire Federal Capital Territory Judicial administration where we play a major role and collaborate with our sisters NBA branches to lay an enduring foundation for the effective implementation of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS), Bar and Bench Forum, and many others. Thanks to British Council – Rule of Law and Anti-corruption for its support in this direction.
Towards this end, our members have undergone various workshops and conferences with the usual support of Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (ROLAC).
This enhances the capacity of our members and exposes them to these initiatives. Without mincing words, the branch appreciates your office for your invaluable service to us by your benevolent training on PDSS undergone by our branch along with other branches in the FCT. Sir, our visit is to beam the light on some of our projects of which your support will be of immense value, not only to the branch, it is going to be an opportunity for your leadership to fulfill your core mandate under the partnership to address largely the issues of (1) Community legal Service (2) Legal Access to Justice.
(1) COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICE:
(a) Radio outreach and Town Hall Meeting – The branch has initiated a weekly enlightening and educating programme in collaboration with Jordan FM 93.9 FM Abuja. The programme which is tagged ‘Law weekly’ is a platform to educate the Federal Capital Territory’s residents about their legal rights, particularly in the administration of criminal justice system. The core objective is to ensure that there is a full compliance with Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. It is a 30 minutes programme. It is our desire to extend the time to 1 hour programme for more impactful feedback from the audience. We enjoin your leadership Sir to provide technical and financial support for enhancing the radio outreach for better reach and maximum impact. Secondly, to complement our radio outreach, the branch is desirous to organize town hall meetings in Bwari, Dutse, Kubwa and Mpape in the coming year for education and sensitization on citizens’ rights, and provisions of ACJA 2015 on pre – trial and trial processes. We are looking towards your office to provide for technical support along with some stakeholders in the justice sector.
- (b) ADR : Mechanism – This is a pre-trial or out of court settlement mechanism we are exploring towards ensuring de-congestion of courts and detentions in the FCT. We have reached out to the Federal High Court’s ADR Centre for collaboration. Nevertheless, our branch is recommending a tripartite meeting – LACON, NBA BWARI BRANCH, FHC ADR CENTRE to see how our relationship can be harnessed towards effective resolution of disputes amicably without recourse to trial. Moreover, a joint committee of both NBA BWARI BRANCH and LACON can be set up by your office to look into the effective way of achieving this.
(2) LEGAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE
(a) PDSS – Sir, this project is close to my heart, and the acceptability and the commitment of our members are exceptionally impressive. The committee is in place working assiduously on this and some of our volunteers have started reporting to their various police formations. Though, we are expecting more interventions from ROLAC and LACON in the area of continual training of our members, volunteers, and staff on the proper administration of the scheme. It is of equal importance that the existing relationship between the police and the solicitors needs to be improved on essentially through constant interactions. It is our belief that the role of LACoN is sine qua non in this direction.
Sir, our worry and major fear is not to start but to sustain. We have expressed this concern in our ACTION PLAN ON PDSS to ROLAC. It is on this fear we look up to you for protection. NBA Branches are operating under the NBA Constitution and Uniform Bye Law 2015 (as amended) the effect of this is that the branches cannot make law for local circumstance. Therefore, we cannot amend the law to allow PDSS to be operational by our successors in the office. However, our hope lies in LACON taking the drive and the ownership of the PDSS where all the successive administrations will subscribe to. It is on this strength, we recommend a Memorandum of Understanding to be the guiding instrument between NBA BWARI BRANCH and LACON on how this relationship can be worked out between the parties towards a successful implementation of PDSS.
(b) Law Clinic – This includes the branch provision of free legal services to the indigents. It involved joint monthly visitation to the detention facilities. The branch has gotten the approval of the Director of Magistrates to engage in joint visitation to detention facilities. It serves as a vantage point to offer free legal advice to defendants in custody if possible follow it up with legal representation in courts. We are extending this gesture to correction services also with a periodic joint visitation of NBA BWARI BRANCH and LACoN. In the area of legal representation our members’ services will be available for LACoN in taking up cases from your office for us to be distributed to members. Striking a better partnership, the branch is equally ready not only to make referral to your office in the area where your capacity is more required, we shall also ensure that in prosecuting pro bo no cases, our processes and cases are registered, coordinated and filed by your office.
(c) Repair and Maintenance of Courts facility- Sequel to the imperativeness of access to justice in our court the branch in my address during the 2019/2020 Legal Year of the FCT HIgh Court and other similar addresses I have made commitment to mobilise senior members of the bar and other stakeholders in the justice administration in the FCT to contribute towards maintenance and repair of the court facilities. This is to curb the inevitable interruption in the smooth running of the court administration which collapsing facilities can affect. Charity begins at home; we have started contributing money among the members having taken an inventory of the facilities that need repair. As at today Sir, we have fixed repaired electrical faults and fixing good energy bulbs in the Bwari High Court. It is to this end, the branch is not mindful of your assistance in providing for fund or materials within your official disposal to fix collapsing facilities in courts ranging from electrical lighting system, computers, furniture, Ac doors and toilets.
Before we draw the curtains, Sir, we are Oliver Twist and we are using this platform to enrich our library for our members to access useful information for the better enhancement of their skills, it is on this point we request for donation of books, journals CDS and other resources for our library from your office.
It is will of great asset to us. Sir, we hope that our visit will produce fruitful outcome and better relationship where our shared vision will translate to a great nation where justice will not only be attained but will be manifestly seen to be done for the good of all.
We thank you Sir for your good disposition and your kind gesture to receiving us.
Clement Chukwuemeka esq
Servant / Chairman
NBA Bwari Branch
29th November, 2019
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